The announcement this week that the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise would be called The Secrets of Dumbledore was greeted with a chorus of “meh” from the geek community. After last year’s misfire, The Crimes of Grindelwald, the general opinion appears to be that if Warner Bros. wants viewers to come back in for part three, these mystical riddles better be up there with the recipe for KFC.
It’s a shame, since JK Rowling’s foray into fantasy screenwriting had so much potential. She created an opening, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that provided an intriguing picture of the wizarding world’s recent past, freed from the frameworks of her Harry Potter books, with its Malory Towers and magical Kool-Aid façade.
Even the convoluted, sometimes oddly meaningless narrative and sloppy characterization of The Crimes of Grindelwald had a lasting sorcerous glitter.
However, the shine has worn off this particular golden snitch due to the many off-screen troubles experienced by both Rowling and actor Johnny Depp in the meantime, as well as the saga’s on-screen downturn. If the planned five-film series is not to be cut short, The Secrets of Dumbledore, in which Depp will be replaced as Grindelwald by Mads Mikkelsen, has to win the Quidditch Cup.
What might the title’s mysteries be? We already know Dumbledore (played by Jude Law in these prequels) is homosexual, according to Rowling’s revelation more than a decade ago, and Beasts 2 revealed that the future Hogwarts headmaster formed a blood covenant with Grindelwald in their childhood to never fight one other. However, the latter’s previous “crimes” were more akin to unending cunning planning.
I guess Grindelwald’s Evil Five-Year Plan didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Could these secrets be ones that we already know about but the next episode’s key characters don’t? Perhaps Dumbledore’s gay status is a huge issue in the wizarding world, which Rowling has always tried to portray as a magical mirror reflection of our own.
For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to imagine her taking up Dumbledore’s fight against the bigots.
One of Beasts 2’s other major discoveries is that Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone is really Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus and Aberforth’s long-lost brother. If the world’s greatest wizard has even more deadly secrets hidden under his robes, then he really is a human counterpart of Area 51, spewing forth enigmas with exquisite regularity for the sake of Rowling’s spinning narrative engine.
Fantastic Beasts and When to Find Them currently finds itself in a similar situation to the Star Wars prequel trilogy, which built up to the moment where Anakin Skywalker eventually transformed into Darth Vader at a glacial pace, yet left audiences with a huge feeling of anticlimax when the big revelation occurred. Worse, Beasts doesn’t appear to know what it’s building up to, other than Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander’s peaceful retirement after defeating the Grindelwald-shaped danger sometime after the conclusion of part five.
We already know that Grindelwald doesn’t do much in his latter years – he spends half a century imprisoned in his own castle, waiting for He Who Must Not Be Named to arrive and murder him. As Crimes of Grindelwald demonstrated, everything of Fantastic Beasts’ magic is based on the dazzling visual magnificence of the old-school, jazz-age wizarding realm.
The Secrets of Dumbledore will see the wizard dispatch Newt and his companions on a perilous expedition, according to the narrative description. It might be to put an end to Grindelwald’s last wicked whim, or to find a rare creature that holds the key to reversing the tide against the villains. But, let’s face it, it’ll most likely be to keep Warner Bros. from having to put a stop to this entire sorcerous saga while the wizarding world retains at least a semblance of dignity.
Thanks to Ben Child at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.